NICOLA Seal was fit and active until a tick bite on Rum led to years of ill-health.

Dr Seal, 39, from Aberdeen, was on the island watching deer in May 2008, when she noticed an itch on her chest, saw an insect and pulled it off. The bite was not sore and she thought no more about it until 11 days later when she suddenly felt unwell. She had a severe stomach ache, sore knees, a headache, stiff neck and felt as if she had flu.

"I remembered the tick bite, and though I didn't know much about Lyme disease I had been told that it attacked the knees," she said. "I went to the GP and he referred me to the hospital."

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Doctors suspected Lyme disease and she was given antibiotics which seemed to work, but about a month later she became unwell again. "I was walking strangely, I was also getting dizzy, feeling nauseous, and finding it difficult to think. My brain processes seemed to slow down and my memory was affected," she said. "Later I started having problems with co-ordination."

Dr Seal saw a specialist doctor in England on a private basis. He diagnosed Lyme disease and recommended intravenous antibiotics. Dr Seal had one course on the NHS, followed by two courses privately at a cost of £8000.

Her condition improved following the three months of IV treatment and a further 13 months of oral antibiotics.

In December 2010 she gave birth to her daughter Ruby but last year she suffered a relapse. She decided to seek treatment in the United States, where she said doctors are more informed about the disease.

While the treatment helped restore her health, it has been expensive. To date she has spent more than £20,000 on travel, consultations and medicine.

The disease has also affected her future plans, she said.

"I'd like to have another baby, but I'm worried that I could pass the disease on to my unborn child."